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MITx MicroMasters adds new pathways to master’s degrees

Learners from around the globe now have enhanced access to “blended” master’s programs at MIT and elsewhere.
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To date, 19 pathway institutions in 11 countries offer 58 different pathways to a master’s degree.
To date, 19 pathway institutions in 11 countries offer 58 different pathways to a master’s degree.
Image courtesy of Lu Zhang

The MITx MicroMasters program recently added more pathway institutions, offering learners from around the globe enhanced access to “blended” master’s programs. Learners who pass an integrated set of MITx graduate-level courses on, and one or more proctored exams, will earn a MicroMasters credential from MITx, and can then apply to enter an accelerated, on campus, master’s degree program at MIT or other top universities that participate in the growing pathways program.

“We are proud to be driving increased access to higher education and career advancement through micromasters credentials and blended master’s programs for learners around the globe,” says MIT Dean for Digital Learning Krishna Rajagopal, “allowing them to more effectively balance their professional and personal lives with learning. The growing number of pathway institutions offer great on-campus experiences and enable accelerated, convenient, and more affordable access to a master’s degree.”

The recently-added pathway institutions are:

To date, 19 pathway institutions in 11 countries offer 58 different pathways to a master’s degree.

Benefits of the pathways for global learners

The pathway network enables MicroMasters credential holders, who are typically working professionals, to obtain a master’s degree from MIT or a growing number of pathway institutions whose campuses may be geographically accessible to them wherever they are.

Learners from around the globe, especially those who are well into their professional lives, may find it impossible to commit to a full-time one-year or two-year on-campus master’s program. It’s not merely a problem of time and money, but also of making sacrifices in their professional and family lives as they invest in higher education.

With its growing network of pathway institutions, the MicroMasters program changes the calculus for global learners. They can begin by taking flexible, cost-effective online MicroMasters courses that enable them to keep working, earning a MicroMasters certificate, a valuable professional and academic credential in and of itself. Many MicroMasters recipients benefit professionally immediately, advancing their careers. MITx credential recipients can also decide to seek a master’s degree by way of entering  an on-campus degree program and receiving credit for their MicroMasters courses, shortening the residential requirement.

In order to learn more about the benefits of this pathway to a master’s program, three learners who’ve just completed their master’s degrees in supply chain management recently provided their insights on the program.

Dan Covert was already working as a supply chain professional for global retailer Ahold Delhaize (the Dutch owner of Stop and Shop supermarket) when he realized he “didn’t understand the core fundamentals of running a supply chain for a global company.” Covert had another problem: “I didn’t see a path forward for a master’s degree. I just wasn’t willing to leave my job, commit two years to a master’s program, and take on those financial burdens.” He signed up for cost-effective online MicroMasters courses in SCM, learning at night and on weekends: “It was the perfect way for me to keep working full-time while dipping my toe into higher education,” he says.

Like Dan Covert, Ramon Paulino took online SCM courses and eventually earned his master’s in June, coming onto the MIT campus for one semester. While taking his final online course, Paulino decided to pursue the on-campus portion. “I really liked what I was learning, and had this appetite to keep the momentum going after I’d tested the waters.” Paulino also mentions the low financial investment and accelerated, accessible nature of the blended master’s: “I don’t think I could have committed to even a full-year, on-campus program,” he says, “because of the amount of money and the burdens of fitting education into my professional and private life.” For example, Paulino remembers “taking an online test at the airport while traveling for my consulting company.”

Paulino says his wife was crucial in helping him balance work, life, and learning: “she kept working while I spent the few months on-campus at MIT. It made things so much easier because I only had to spend a short time on campus, versus an expensive one-year commitment while not working. Being able to compress that time made it all possible,” he says.

Rafaela Nunes, now working in Sao Paulo, Brazil, emphasizes three points when asked to explain the benefits of the online courses: “Accessibility, meaning I could study from anywhere; flexibility, meaning I could learn around my work schedule, and affordability of cost.” All three SCM learners interviewed said the online courses prepared them well for the accelerated on-campus learning experience. And all three maintain that the collaborative, face-to-face nature of the on-campus experience was critical for their learning. Nunes describes her overall experience in the SCM blended master’s program as “intense, unforgettable and of immeasurable value to my future.”

Benefit of the pathways for MIT, institutions, and companies

Pathways don’t just benefit global learners by offering a crucial on-campus learning experience, but also benefit the pathway institutions, and companies looking for cutting-edge talent. For instance, some pathway institutions are already integrating some of the MITx MicroMasters curriculum into what they’re doing, using it as a model. Moreover, being part of the growing MITx MicroMasters pathway network gives these institutions access to talented, well-prepared students who have already shown a proven commitment to learning, mastering graduate-level MITx coursework through obtaining the MITx MicroMasters credential, and who may not otherwise have considered completing master's degree.

Tracy Tan, director of the MicroMasters Program, adds that the pathways program “helps advance MIT’s educational mission of promoting access to world-class learning, and allows MIT to make a greater global impact with its world-renowned educational content.” By making learning more accessible for working professionals around the globe, geographically accessible pathways even help global companies access more talent in an array of professional areas.

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